Is Your Mother is a Covert Narcissist? — 5 Ways To Tell

Is Your Mother A Covert Narcissist?

After all –

It is all about her, not you.

LOOK AT ME! — Is this not your mom? Not every narcissistic mother is overtly self-centered, braggadocious and vain! Some are self-effacing demure and shy away from the spotlight.

Women have been socialized to appear accommodating and self-effacing. These learned behaviors can obscure an underlying covert narcissistic personality disorder.

Mom might be the helicoptering PTA president, a squeaky clean Sunday school teacher or long-suffering martyred momma yet still have an underlying personality disorder.

Don’t be fooled.

Many covert narcissistic mothers have much more subtle telltale moves. Here is how to spot them. So you can begin to heal.

FIVE (not so obvious) signs you have a covert narcissistic mother:

  • When you are making her look good, she glows… but when you are struggling she peppers you with criticism and questions. You have broken a rule you didn’t know was there; your purpose is to make her look good.
  • If you break this rule you will pay, pay with your self-esteem. There are no practice tests, no dress rehearsals. All of life is a performance.
  • Sadly, It’s about how you make her look as a mother not about supporting you as a daughter.
  • Subtext: she exists on a steady diet of self-importance, you are there to feed her not the other way around.
  • When she gives you gifts, there are always strings attached. Gift giving has a push me, pull me feel. She feels so empty herself that she can’t give without extracting something from you.
  • She may ask for the gift back or tell you what to give her. On holidays, she doesn’t graciously receive the gift you choose for her. She can’t receive; this would mean giving up control.
  • This subtext is “You are not free to choose what to give me. That would imply we are equals. I will control the giving and taking.”
  • Despite outward appearances to the contray, your life must take a back seat to her needs. When you are unable to immediately attend to her, she becomes resentful.
  • Again, the subtext is this; it is her needs that are important.
  • When you question her or ask for clarification, she becomes immediately defensive and fires back at you. Or she gives an overblown hyperbolic response. Something along the lines of I’m SO SORRY for EVERYTHING and ANYTHING she MIGHT have done. She was, after all ONLY trying to help.
  • The subtext is this; you are to answer to her, not the other way around.
  • This move is designed to deflect blame and make you feel guilty. She is protecting the emptiness inside of herself.
  • When your boundaries about your personal life is not respected. Everything and anything is her business. The requests for information feel more like a demand. Not a respectful exchange. You get push back if you try and set healthy boundaries.
  • The subtext is this; Your business is mine for the taking.
  • You feel owned, instead of loved.

This is my “no punches pulled” list to help you spot the signs of a covert narcissistic mother.

Harsh maybe, truthful, you bet.

As a psychotherapist counseling women for 30 years, I have seen these manipulative moves by mothers. They are more subtle than the boorish moves you might see in a narcissistic man.

These are the moves of the covert narcissistic mother. Not the blowhard bluster of the narcissistic man.

Still, they are every bit as destructive to her daughter as the overt narcissistic mother.

I would argue the damage is worse because of the insidious nature of the wounds. Like a nick from an extra sharp razor, you don’t know you’ve been cut until you see the blood running down your leg.

As the daughter of the covert narcissistic mother, you feel the sting of shame but think it is your fault, not hers.

Shame keeps you second-guessing yourself. Bogged down in a sea of self-doubt you can’t see these moves for what they are. A desperate attempt to shore up mom at your expense.

It’s not you. It’s her. Really.

Calling out these moves and naming them for what they are is the first step towards healing.

With awareness, you can evolve beyond Good Daughter into an empowered woman. You need to see mom’s moves for what they are and how they have held you back.

We are women. We can do better.

Empowering women one mother/daughter relationship at a time.

This article originally published on


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Katherine Fabrizio

Katherine Fabrizio Empowers Daughters of Narcissistic/Borderline/Difficult Mothers who are trapped in the role of “Good Daughter” in psychotherapy and online.